LA Opera's The Marriage of Figaro - Magnificent!

LA Opera hits another one out of the stratosphere!  Mozart’s comic masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro, in its third revival at LA Opera comes out as fresh as the spring daisies on March 21.

 

Loving couple Figaro and Susanna

This lovely farcical piece sends up the pomposity of the upper class and especially its male components.   Bad behavior, which is expected from the male nobility, is mocked and bettered by women and servants alike as well as by the production itself. Indeed, Ryan McKinney first appears as Count Almaviva, robes flapping , displaying a bare chest as he comes to seduce Susanna in the first act. The story was a fitting lead up to the French Revolution, when it was written by Beaumarchais

 

Marriage brings fireworks

During the three-month extravaganza Figaro Unbound by LA Opera, we are well educated in the character of Figaro, a hero of the underdog who is based on characters from Commedia del Arte. His specialty is making fools out of the upper classes and thus paving the way for the French and American Revolutions. We have also seen in productions like Figaro 90210 that this dynamic still works in today’s society when you think of the one percent as the upper class.

 

Susanna, Cherubino, Countess

Congratulations to director Ian Judge, whose hand has been in the original and in all the revivals of Marriage of Figaro at LA Opera.  And yet, it is ever-fresh and crisp, and the production makes a wonderfully delightful evening.

The sets by Tim Goodchild are eye-popping and although seen before, it’s hard to get tired of them. Each set is bigger than life, designer quality, perfectly colored for each scene.  And yet, unlike many sets, while adding so much to the feel of the action, they are enormous and leave so much space for the singers and dancers to move. And move they do - through them and around them - in perfect harmony. 

 

Susanna, Count Almaviva, Don Basilio

The dancers in the second act are likewise perfect and add a special touch to the opera as thye prance to Mozart’s melodies. Kudos to choreographers Sergio Trujllo and Chad Everett Allen, as well as to chorus director Grant Gershon.

 

Susanna and Figaro finally celebrate

Conductor James Conlon leads his LA Opera orchestra—I have never heard a bad note coming from them. And in this opening night they seemed also to burst out like rockets in the overture, capturing a rousing and prolonged appreciation from the audience.

What’s also new and fresh is our cast—coming from every part of the globe, and practically every ethnicity as well. The hall resounds with their crystal-clear voices and personalities.

 

Figaro and the Count

The young Figaro and Susanna are beautiful and in love.  They convey this constantly not only with their well-toned happy voices but also in their behavior throughout. The love oozes out of them.  Pretty Yende has got the body as well as the voice to make the part believable—she’s a shapely damsel with a big smile.  And the fact that she is African adds weight to the plot of her being in a traditional position of servitude. She truly looks like she is enjoying herself every minute onstage.

Roberto Tagliavini as Figaro has strong, rounded tones, which sound like a gong at times and seem to reverberate. Although a servant, he is appealingly lanky, and he looks and acts like an aristocrat himself.

Renee Rapier is charming in her trouser role of Cherubino, who is so cute that all the women fall for him.

 

Cherubino and Figaro

Kristinn Sigmundsson as Doctor Bartolo is always a joy when he gets to use his deep bass. We especially enjoyed his recent antics in The Barber of Seville, and here it is especially fun as he squeezes deep bass tones into his light, bel-canto aria.

 

Don Basilio, Marcellina, Dr. Bartola

Lucy Schaufer as Marcellina and Robert Brubaker as Don Basilio deliver the funny. Schaufer is an accomplished comedienne.  Brubaker is a true comic’s comic and every moment onstage he is finding ways to be hilarious.  And then when he sings, he has the sweetest-sounding tenor. I hope we can see more of them both in comic roles.

 

Countess and Susanna plot

But in this field of excellent talent in this production, for me the standout is Chinese soprano Guanqun Yu as Countess Alvaviva. Perhaps the only role with depth, she is a good woman who suffers because of her true love. Her role is perhaps the most difficult, as she holds the stage solo for her big arias, and she is engaging and beautiful.  She keeps the believability of her sadness without obstructing the comedy tone of the production. Her voice is mellifluous and flutters like a hummingbird’s wings. In ensemble, she is also funny, and it comes from a deeper place of sincerity somehow.  She is a great discovery who debuted in LA Opera a month ago in The Ghosts of Versailles, and I hope she returns for many more performances.

 

I highly recommend this opera to anyone alive! Thank you to Mozart, Beaumarchais, LA Opera, and all the artists involved in this production!

 

Photos: Craig T. Mathew

  

Georja Umano is an actress and animal advocate.

 

 Los Angeles Opera

The Marriage of Figaro at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion

Box Office:  213.972.8001

  • Thursday March 26, 2015 07:30 PM 
  • Sunday March 29, 2015 02:00 PM 
  • Saturday April 04, 2015 07:30 PM 
  • Thursday April 09, 2015 07:30 PM 
  • Sunday April 12, 2015 02:00 PM  

 

 

 

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